Expanding Mentor Roles to Fill Training Voids

Posted February 2019

Although larger agencies typically have training staff, the vast majority of small to mid-size agencies have absolutely no training capacity. The thought is alarming given the proliferation of advanced electronic technology coupled with the rise of battery-electric buses.

The Center’s Xinge Wang and John Schiavone delivered training to frontline workers attending conferences sponsored by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in December and January. During the December session, about 75% of the bus maintenance technicians, primarily from smaller agencies, acknowledged they had no training department. When asked how they received their training, responses ranged from “we don’t,” from “vendors,” and from “go-to techs,” a term used to describe fellow technicians perceived as having a high level of knowledge and skills.

As part of its American Apprenticeship Initiative (AAI) for frontline workers in transit occupations, the Center is exploring the possibility of expanding the training role of bus maintenance mentors, especially at those agencies without formal instructors. The concept would be to take existing “go-to” technicians and provide them with the preparation needed to expand and structure their training role. In addition to delivering on the job training (OJT) consisting of hands-on exercises (e.g., changing brake pads), mentors would also provide background training normally delivered by classroom instructors (e.g., air brake theory). Distance based learning developed by the Center under the AAI project, consisting of self-contained Web-based courses, could also be delivered by mentors in their expanded role to complement OJT. About 95% of those participating in the January ATU session indicated support for the concept.

The Center currently provides mentor training to agencies that have or are working towards a registered apprenticeship program. This program is an additional component to the Transit Coach Operator Apprenticeship program that the Center is currently working on through our U.S. DOL American Apprenticeship Initiative grant. The goal is to provide support for transit coach operators so that they can be successful in their careers as operators and reduce turnover rates for the agency.

For additional information on Bus Maintenance Apprenticeship, contact the Center’s John Schiavone
For information on Mentor Training or Transit Coach Operator Apprenticeship, contact Kenyon Corbett.

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